Friday, April 20, 2012

Democracy only feels fair if you're on the winning side.

This afternoon, Susan took a group of children out to the small park, leaving six in the classroom while the stragglers finished using the bathroom and performing other necessary tasks. They were leaping and running about the room, threatening to knock down or dismantle the "penguin house" their friends had been working on for the past two days, so I invited them to come sit with me while I told them a story. By the time I was finished telling a short tale (shamelessly borrowed from Robert Munsch, like many a great story), The Littlest Preschooler was finished with his jobs and had come to join us.

"Are we ready to join our friends outside?" I asked, enthusiastically.

"NO!" "Nah." "Nope." "I don't want to..." were the replies.

"Well, that was a unanimous no..." I observed.

The Littlest Preschooler turned to his friends and pronounced (albeit with some difficulty, as I'm sure he was using a word he had never tried to say before) "Dat was a unanimis no, eveebody."

Wanting to make sure each child's voice was heard, I asked them one at a time whether they would prefer to stay in or go out. All said "stay in" except for Z, who wanted to go out.

"Susan already has as many kids as she can have by herself, and Anna has to go help the toddlers right away here. That means that either we all have to stay inside or we all have to go outside. I'll ask one more time and then we'll decide."

So I asked them all again, in reverse order, after casually mentioning that the "new bikes" (tricycles recently donated by another program in the same building) were out there. C, the youngest of the girls, leapt to her feet and patted my thigh excitedly. "I have a helmet!" She practically vibrated with enthusiasm.

In the end, C and Z wanted to go outside, and the rest wanted to stay in.

"Well, the most people want to stay in, so we are going to stay in the classroom and work on the things we have in here."

"But I want to go outside!" protested Z.

"I know, and so does C.  But A, Ch, JD, and H all want to stay in here. More people want to stay in."

I could sense a big arguement brewing, so I opted for a visual representation. I held up four fingers on my right hand. "Four children really want to stay in." Then I held up two fingers on my left hand. "Two children would rather go outside. Which one is more?" After a short discussion, we all agreed (except for Z, whose mind is difficult to change!) that 4 is more than 2. "Guess what!" I gasped. "That's called a vote. This is how adults decide important things. Everyone says which thing he wants, and the thing that the most people want is the thing that happens. That's just about as fair as we can make it in a situation like this."

"Oh." Z was not happy to discover that I was standing by his opponents' decision.

"That's called democracy. YAY, DEMOCRACY!"

"YAY, DEMOCWASEEE!" crowed The Littlest Preschooler.

Then, the children spontaneously formed a percussion band and rocked out to their innovative cover of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep: The Remix" for twenty minutes.

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